poet in residence

Marjorie Lotfi Gill was Jupiter Artland’s first Poet in Residence from 2014-2016, during which time she led numerous writing workshops inspired by the sculpture and installations, and ran, co-judged and helped coordinate a reading of the shortlist for Jupiter Artland’s first writing competition.  

She also coordinated the Inspired to Write Reading at Jupiter Artland on 8 September 2016. Marjorie was also the Writer in Residence for 2015 Spring Fling and the Wigtown Book Festival.  

Many of Marjorie’s poems are ekphrastic, responding to artwork (in the form of paintings, sculpture, installation pieces and photographs), translating images or the physicality of sculpture and the questions that the work presents into metaphor for use in poems.  She also recently launched The Belonging Project, using ekphrasis to examine how the refugee’s flight, journey and assimilation intersects and parallels our more universal experiences of journey and belonging, and then working with those common experiences to remove barriers and build empathy. 
Marjorie completed an MSc in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh in 2015. Her poems have won awards, been widely published in the UK and USA (including in Acumen, Ambit, CURA, Gutter, Magma, Mslexia, Rattle, The North, The Reader and The Rialto) and have been performed on BBC Radio 4.

Marjorie has led numerous writing workshops during her residencies, as well as for Scottish Book Trust, UNESCO City of Literature, the Scottish Poetry Library, the National Galleries of Scotland, Open Book, The Grassmarket Community Project and other writing groups. She also regularly performs her work, most recently at Shore Poets in Edinburgh. 

Weeping Girls by Renita Boyle 4th September 2016 / Poet in Residence You stand in the wood
head down
shoulders slumped
classic posture of shame
You may be a grown woman
for all I know
inner child turned to stone
macabre art for all to see
pass by in discomfort or examine
like me
in your eyelet dress of a bygone day
tights and plimsolls
hands clenched
curly ringlets straggled long
covering your face
The wind and rain have no impact
nor the warmth of the sun
when it rests
And though you are stone
I hold you
hold you
hold you
try to pull back your hair
find that you
are hollow and have no face
I weep too
For the loss ...
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Orchids 4th September 2016 / Renita Boyle Orchids are delicate, graceful, fragrant
Suited to window sills; south or southeast
Bloom quietly, discreetly
But this one is loud and big and brash
Tall as a building, made of concrete
Comic book colours
Discordant with its natural surround
Forces an opinion, a response-
To avoid or embrace.
And yet, there is something quite appealing
About this monstrous orchid, out of place.
It grows on you, somehow,
Smile upon its face.
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Contemplation 4th September 2016 / Renita Boyle
Leaning in to the curve of a quiet pond
a boat house kneels on stilts                  
a shrine to one hundred rivers
purified samples sealed in translucent bottles
cloistered in rows
monks singing to one hundred rivers
running wild
running free
running clean

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Beehives 4th September 2016 / Renita Boyle I am the meadow
Full blossomed and fragrant
Longing for the bees
To come and make honey of me
Their hives are strangely silent
Oh when will they come
Fill the air with buzzing and wings
Sip my nectar with their strange quivering
Throbbing hums to fill long hours
Among my wild flowers
All this blue yonder?
Their hives are strangely silent
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Beak-Niks 4th September 2016 / Renita Boyle We are the beak-nik generation
Hipsters of alliteration
Shake your feathers
plump and preen
Dig it chicks
the beak-nik scene
hepcat habitat

Bongo bongo
come and tweet our song – o
Roostin’ in the Whammy Bar
Electro- jammin’ sleek guitars
Finches riffin’ for the stars
plume berets wee gotees
Struttin’ echoes of the trees
Strum-o strum - o
let me hear you hummm – o
Jazz it up and improvise
Pluckin’ with our birdy feet
Groovin’ on that crazy beat
Singin’ in captivity
liberating poetry
Swing-o swing-o
loosin’ up your lingo
Don’t be square
Don’t rehearse
Vibin’ on chaotic verse
Plug the Jack and Kerouac
Tune out tune in                    

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Two Poems 2nd September 2016 / Anne Pia How can you stand so firm and sure
in a wavering world of whispers, the mouth music
of forest
seeking out the spaces
where all your momentum
is barred?

Standing before me, the glow of you
gilding your skin,
you draw me too close for our comfort
and I must slip back into my own, known space
my unspoken truth spilling
into a room hushed by growing darkness.
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Varieties 29th August 2016 / Colin Will Intersections of mown paths
form a metric, spacing between trees,
apples and plums. On the Z-axis
ladders forecast cropping height.

An orchard is an expression of hope,
of belief, founded or unfounded,
in the sureness of juice, sweet
and sharp, of a good harvest.

There is no perfection in life;
each fruit holds its blemish
as a badge of identity,
evidence of disease or chance.

In each module, cell, a tree
reacts with its surroundings,
with weather and predators,
competes for water and minerals

with the weed layer, with nettles
and red-seeded docks,
pain and its cure
growing together.

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Over here by Colin Will 29th August 2016 / Poet in Residence A taut star of threads like veins
on a dragonflies wing, like
vascular bundles in a stem,
cross-sectioned, like
the skeletons of cells, like
a web with a huge escape hole
in the centre, a window
onto the brown field
which was pale wheat
the last time we came here
and walked this path together.

I don’t see you over here,
but I remember where you were,
and in the distance the outline
of Corston Hill, robbed of its hard
substance, quarried to make roads,
connections between you and I,
the routes we used to travel.
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Animitas 29th August 2016 / Colin Will Suspended rectangles shimmer
in the lightest breeze,
on an island full of airs,
gracing the pond
with reflections,
of themselves, their wands,
their bells of belonging,
sound held for a moment,
released when the wind falls
into a broken silence.

Coots jerk heads forward
as their feet paddle back.
Above the beak, a white blaze
sharp against black plumes.

Among the sheep-cropped
water margins, parasols of Gunnera,
the twitch of reed tassels.

Bubbles rise and burst
in a circlet of ripples,
until new rain covers
the surface. Interference
patterns intersect,
augment or cancel.

A feeling of summer
suddenly over, autumn
not yet begun.
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Containment 29th August 2016 / Kriss Nichol I am restrained
Distilled Pure Essence
of all I am trapped
in a boundary of stoppered glass           
Snug on a shelf
my secret Self
safe impassive observer of all I was
I strain to smash out
return to source
Contaminate myself with peat and pondweed
my breath brown
laden with life
buzzing insects skimming my surface
I long to flow freely
along beds
through weeds
eddy outwards from the plop of frogs
splash of oars
guzzle of birds
snap of fish
I want to get down
and dirty
with cloying mud
smear myself
with detritus from storms
allow currents to churn
and froth me over stones
To lick my way up ankles and legs

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Summer Writing Groups 21st June 2016 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill ORCHARD
            by Steve Harvey
Ladders stand next to fruit tree saplings
An exercise in orchard forward planning
Oak rungs waiting for the soles of pickers
Whose shoe sizes will have grown by then:
All things reaching for maturity, limbs getting thicker –
Plum and apple trees and children.
                 by Steve Harvey
Zebra finches in a long, light building
Flitting between miked electric guitars
Plucking at any of the sixty strings,
A random concert, challenging, bizarre:
Captive eric claptons
That pluck and pluck and play;
Feathered george harrisons
Fretting their little lives away.
               by Steve Harvey
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Summer Writing Groups 9th June 2016 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill Keep Music Live
               by Anne Hay

Part the heavy metal
curtain, watch this flighty
flock of jazzers
shake a tail feather
on those so-laid-back-
Les Paul guitars.
This nervous noodling
before the gig
might seed a riff
that leads
to the breakthrough
number but it’s likely
they’ll peck and pluck,
pick and strum, break
for food, weed and drink,
nobody picking up
how feathers are ruffled
till the day they migrate
claiming musical differences.

The first Summer Writing Group of 2016 looked at the places that the human and natural worlds meet, taking in From Here to Ear, Weeping Girls and Piss Flowers
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Goodbye? 21st April 2016 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill Hare hill
Don’t tell me that this is the end. Instead, make
a model of the plane that dropped me, sized to
a replica of its outline against sky, from the point
where I landed, so small I could fit its quickening shape
inside my belly and believe in starting again. Lift me
up from the field on a box made of the same metal,
let me look over the grasses breathing in the wind
towards the hill where you landed, its ridge lining
yet another boundary between us.  We’ll wait, 
inert as pins and needles, for this to pass. 
I'm still not quite used to the idea that my residency has come to an end, but I'm confident that I’ll be around and about at Jupiter Artland so much this summer that ...
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Snowdrops 25th February 2016 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill
Snowdrops grow under
boulders, slung into the arms
of trees above.  Hope.
On this grey day in February, the landscape and artwork at Jupiter Artland still offers up so much for me to consider.  Back to thinking about my original interest in being in this place over a period of seasons, I note how despite the flat light and weather, the sculpture still responds and interacts with its surroundings: Life Mounds is changed by the scrape of ice melting along each surface, The Light Pours Out of Me housed under its winter hat refuses to be dulled by sheets of plastic and the lack of natural light. Even Goldsworthy’s Stone Coppice hides the snowdrops forming under its boulders, and a walk through the wood becomes a game of hide and seek, the distraction of the dark masses offset by little ...
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Inspired to Write Competition 25th January 2016 / Learning Team Last week we held a reading of the shortlisted entries for our Inspired to Write poetry and prose competiton. The competiton launched in Summer 2015 and was coordinated by Marjorie Lotfi Gill, our Poet in Residence. All submissions were inspired by the artwork at Jupiter Artland and we had over 150 entries from as far as Bolivia and Egypt. We were delighted with the response and the quality of the writing and it took our judges, Marjorie Lotfi Gill and Jupiter Artland Founder and Director Nicky Wilson, hours of reading to shortlist the submissions and finally choose a winner. The event itself was held in the Jupiter Artland ballroom of Bonnington House with Nathan Coley's You Imagine What You Desire illuminating the backdrop. It was fantastic to hear the poems/prose being read out loud by their writers, bringing to life the words and capturing the emotion and atmosphere ...
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Imagine 3rd December 2015 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill
the leaves still
            on the trees
and waves held
            in the sea,
roots that have yet
            to take hold,
branch after branch
            not reaching
from their source;
the sky refusing
            the dull ache
of December, opening
            the curtains to light,
that it’s not too late
            to make it right.
Thursday morning, I woke to the news that the UK had begun air strikes on Syria and that another mass shooting had taken place in California.  On may way into Jupiter Artland, Nathan Coley’s words “You Imagine What You Desire” (written in ...
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Document Scotland : The Ties That Bind 13th November 2015 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill This week I’ve been running creative writing workshops for school-aged students in response to the Portrait Gallery’s Document Scotland : The Ties that Bind exhibition. The exhibition uses the work of four Scottish photographers (Colin McPherson, Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Stephen McLaren) to look at Scotland, and what it means to be Scottish.  As writers, we used a series of prompts to consider the images themselves, and then used the images as starting places for our own stories.

(One particularly fun exercise was to mimic in words the work of Sophie Gerrard’s ‘Drawn to the Land’ portion of the exhibition that uses clusters of photographs, which when looked at together work as a kind of portrait of a female farmer.  We used the images to start us off, writing a series of 7-9 statements about a person which, when read together, gave the reader ...
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Ekphrastic Workshop for Advanced Higher Students 23rd September 2015 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill Jupiter Artland organized this poet-led writing workshop as part of our free education programme to celebrate the BBC Get Creative Month of Creative Writing.
 On Thursday, I ran a creative writing workshop at Jupiter Artland for a group of Advanced Higher and Higher students from The Royal High School in Edinburgh.  We began by discussing my role as Poet in Residence at Jupiter Artland and how writers respond to outdoor sculpture and use the changing contexts to inform their writing. Using introductory and accessible writing exercises we created a ‘word hoard’ (or a list of words) around the concepts of “inside”, “outside” and “the places between inside and outside”, and shared those words with each other, before we put on our coats and went out to see the sculptures!
On our tour of Jupiter Artland we visited a number of their permanent sculptures ...
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Stone House 21st September 2015 / Marjorie Lotfi Gill The first poem I ever wrote about a Jupiter Artland Sculpture has just been published by The Lampeter Review:

Stone House
                                           - after Stone House – Bonnington, by Andy Goldsworthy
                                                      “Nature is the occupant”
First, he chooses a level spot, digs
the bracken and earth away. 
He doesn’t want soft grasses
beneath his feet; even the roots
of neighboring trees are unfastened.
When he hits bedrock, he decides
its mottled shape reflects himself,
and lets it stay.
Next, he digs the foundations,
long trenches the U shape of happiness,
grit filtering like sand in seawater
settling at the bottom of a jar.
When he puts the walls up, stone
set at right angles against itself,
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Barren 24th August 2015 / Poet in Residence Beautiful new poem 'Barren' by Marjorie Lotfi Gill as read by poet on Samira Ahmed's Away Being, Coming Home on BBC Radio 4 - Listen here.
Inspired by Unmade Bed, Isle of Lewis, 2013
Photography by Ian Paterson

Finally, when there is nothing left
in the trunk, her clothing parsed out
amongst siblings and cousins
in moments of common sense,
she leaves its lid open so the scent
of the child will fade, so she won’t
be tempted to put her head inside
that box to breathe.
Then she decides to paint the room,
chooses the child’s favourite grass green,
but can only manage one coat. The cracks
in the tongue and groove glare.
She stamps a hole in the suitcase.
But she can’t change ...
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